Moments.


Earl and I were reminiscing about previous Disney vacations last night. It is moments like that where having a blog for nearly 15 years has been helpful; if I have forgotten something I can look it up on the blog. Living life out loud like this has been very helpful.
 
 Looking up the 2005 trip led me to reading entries from that era. I realized that I haven’t changed a whole lot in a decade, aside from some middle aged crotchety-ness that has set in since my mid 40s. I need to calm down on that front and smile more.
 
 Though personal blogs have long ago faded in lieu of quick belches of Twitter and Facebook entries, I still enjoying capturing moments of my life from time to time.
 
 My words keep me grounded. And that’s a wonderful feeling.

Clever. 

The civil engineer in me always appreciates the designs on Disney properties. 

The castle say Magic Kingdom is lit up with thousands of white lights, similar in design as the icicle lights found on residential buildings everywhere. 

  

I immediately noticed that the individual icicles weren’t swaying in the wind, even though it’s been fairly breezy the two nights we have been here. Swaying icicles would break the illusion and that is something that Disney Imagineers try to avoid at all costs. 

Upon closer inspection, the icicle lights are attached to a grid of metal netting. While the lights are irregular in shape and placement, the grids are not, they are large rectangular pieces that can be assembled off site, installed and removed quickly and most importantly, maintain an illusion of rigidity like a real icicle out in the wild. 

Simplicity is sometimes the best answer. 

  

DL 2003. 

Earl and I are aboard Delta flight 2003. We are on vacation and so far it is off to a wonderful start. We are on a Boeing 717-200 en route to Atlanta, seats 2C and 2D. I’ll let you do the math as to where we are located in the cabin. 

This is my first official vacation since starting my new job in June. I’m still loving the new gig but it will be nice to have a few days away. Earl has always had Christmas at Walt Disney World on his bucket list, so I’m happy that we can enjoy this this season.

I turn into such a kid when I’m aboard an airline flight these days. I have headphones and music loaded up on my iPad, but I can help but just gaze out the window, listen to the sounds of the airplane and love every moment of the flight. I smile big as I look out the window. 

The flight was bumpy as we made our way up through the clouds. I know several pilots that enjoy bumps.  They don’t bother me like they used to. I’m starting to enjoy the challenge of flying in bumpy air as a pilot. I guess it’s part of my personal growth. 

I’m really looking forward to kicking back and relaxing on this trip. For now I’m going to sit back, relax and enjoy the flight.

Quick postscript – shout out to Shanice, our flight attendant on this flight. They entire crew is very friendly.  People should make an effort to smile back. I know I do. 

Trek.

The media and associated merchandising outlets have been going crazy over the release of the latest installment of “Star Wars”. I believe this chapter is called “The Force Awakens” or something like that. Even though I love science fiction, I’ve never been a huge fan of the Star Wars universe. I’ve seen all the movies but I’ve never waited in line to see them on opening day nor have I ever been one to see all the recuts and re-edits and such. I’m just not that much of a Star Wars fan. Though, quick side note, my first date ever as with a girl named Karen Black. We saw “The Empire Strikes Back” together. I think I was 12.

Just in time for Star Wars, a teaser-trailer has been released for the next Star Trek movie, “Star Trek Beyond”. I’m a big fan of the Star Trek universe so I was quite excited to see the trailer of this next movie.

I hated it. I watched it several times and confirmed that I hated the trailer.  Directed by “The Fast and The Furious” director Justin Lin, I saw motorcycles, over the top stunts and a lot of kickboxing/martial arts. Not really the Star Trek I fell in love with as a young kid.

Uninspired by the upcoming movie, I decided to go back to watching fan-made movies and episodes of Star Trek. For those not familiar, there are several series and movies taking place in the Star Trek universe made by fans of the show. Some of these productions include actors from commercial Star Trek ventures. Some are adaptations of scripts that were never made into full blown productions. These productions take place in many different eras of Star Trek, some boast a foundation of The Original Series, others are set in a future we haven’t seen yet. All of these are funded, created and produced by fans of Star Trek. And many of them are quite impressive.

Earlier this year, a movie entitled “Star Trek: Renegades” was released. It’s available on YouTube. A slick production, the visual quality of this movie is impressive, there are many cast members from other Star Trek and sci-if shows and, while the story is a little different than what one is used to from Star Trek, it still feels like it belongs in the Star Trek universe. Sure, there was some wooden acting (remember many of the actors are fans of the show) and a plot hole here and there, but for the most part I was very impressed with the production of “Star Trek: Renegades”. I look forward to watching it again on a bigger screen (I watched it on my iPad for my first viewing) and I’m really hoping to see further episodes along this series’ timeline.  

Here’s the trailer for “Star Trek: Renegades”. Astute observers will note that the lead female role is played by the same actress that played Xena’s daughter Livia/Eve in the latter part of that series. I am looking forward to being a supporter and backer of this and other Star Trek fan derived adventures.

And I have a goal of wearing a red shirt on screen someday. I might yet see the realization of my imaging of what I think a transporter beam should look like 1.


1 In 1987 I sent a storyboard, letter and documentation to Paramount in hopes of suggesting what the transporter should look like in “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier”. I received a favorable response from the company, however, my suggestion never made it to the movie. A version of it, though most likely pure coincidence and not quite identical to what I suggested, made it to “Star Trek: Voyager”.


Morning Routines.

In my never ending quest to basically Supe Myself Up and to live my life as best and productively as I can, I have been reading about the importance of a consistent morning routine. Now, there are some that say you have to wake up long before the crack of dawn to be productive, working your schedule so that lunch is in the latter half of your day, while others have a little more respect for one’s natural rhythms and give tips to work with that approach. Almost all of the articles that I have read (asianefficiency.com is one of them) have suggested that a consistent morning routine with certain key elements will give you that extra boost to make every day a great day.

I decided to start this approach this morning.

I started with a new approach to my alarm clock.  Using an app called Sleep Cycle, I told my phone that I wanted to wake somewhere between 6:00 and 6:30 this morning. The app monitored my sleep all night and figured out at what time I would be the furthest away from deep sleep between 6:00 and 6:30 and sounded the alarm at the appropriate time. Humans tend to sleep in 90 minute cycles, and waking up when we’re in the midst of deep sleep is why we are sometimes groggy, so waking when you are in a lighter sleep is a key step in start the day right.

Upon awaking I immediately went the bathroom and then drank a glass of water. I never knew this, but drinking a glass of water upon waking helps wake your body up and gets things moving again. I felt better after the glass of water so I can see the logic in this.

Before going for my 45 minute morning walk (since the weather is a little wonky for bike rides at this time of year), I used an app called Headspace to do a 10 minute meditation. This helped me feel more grounded than I expected it to. During a recent physical my doctor suggested that I meditate more to help lower my blood pressure. I’m hoping that meditating will help calm my mind a little bit. I have a lot of stuff going on in my head at any given time.

I then proceeded with my morning walk and my usual morning routine of making the bed, showering, shaving, etc. Overall I felt like the day is off to a great start and I’m feeling pretty good for a Monday.

I was going to hold off on trying these changes in my routine and start a fresh with the New Year, but as they say, there’s no time like the present, so I’m going to try this approach and see how it works out in the long run. I know that these changes can’t hurt (even though some folks think that meditation lets the demons in, whatever that means) so it’s all for the best.

I can never stop learning.

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Early Geek.

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Data Terminal Systems Model 440 cash register

Last night I dreamed about working in a grocery store. In my dream I was my current age, with all the knowledge and such (the such including my Dad-bod) associated with being a middle-aged man but I was working in the Acme grocery store in my hometown. The Acme went out of business in the early 1980s but the building was quickly used as a Super Duper and later a “Big M”. The later incarnations were locally owned supermarkets.

I never worked for any grocery store in my life, though my sister worked at the “Big M” when she was a senior in high school, so I don’t know why I was dreaming about this experience but nonetheless there I was, stocking shelves, pricing items and running the cash register. I was happy, I had few cares and life felt good. Perhaps this was a way for my brain to destress. Maybe I was dreaming about grocery shopping for holiday meals.

The geek in me vividly remembers the part of the dream of me working the cash register; there was no scanning or anything but the cash register was electronic. Upon waking I could still hear the very familiar sound of the printer and I remembered how the cash register worked, since I studied these things as a young lad. I’ve mentioned before that my interest in electronic calculators and cash registers led me into my very strong interest and associated career in computer related fields. The cash register was a Data Terminal Systems Model 440, a very popular cash register found in many, many stores and other retail outlets in the mid 1970s to early 1990s. When I worked for ARC in the early 1990s, the nearby Great American grocery store still used these cash registers, but the dream definitely didn’t take place at Great American. I was definitely at the Acme.

Even though one can find just about anything on the Internet, I can’t find much in the way of Data Terminal Systems, a company that was based in Maynard, Massachusetts. This is kind of odd to me because their systems were everywhere in the 70s and 80s but one doesn’t even find systems on eBay or anything. There must be landfills loaded with these things and that’s a shame. I know that DTS was eventually sold off to National Semiconductor. I did some very brief contractor work for National Semiconductor in 1990 before moving on to my next challenge in life.

I still can’t figure out the purpose of the dream other than apparently enjoying a simpler existence, but the geek in me has enjoyed musing about the DTS cash register system this morning.

I guess I’m first and foremost a geek.

Roundabouts.

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Photo courtesy of NYSDOT

Last night Earl and I were driving through town when we came to a roundabout. Because I was entering the roundabout, I yielded at the YIELD sign and looked to my left to see if there was traffic coming.

It was then that I observed a woman driving a beat up minivan entering the roundabout at the next leg to my left. She ignored all signs, all traffic in the roundabout, stepped on the gas and drove through the intersection as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, her behavior is quite common.

Many people in this area see roundabouts as scary, dangerous, incomprehensible and most importantly, un-American since they have lots of them in Europe. Because of their ties to socialism, folks ignore all traffic signs and just barrel through the roundabouts as quickly as possible, paying no heed to what’s happening with traffic at the moment. Perhaps it’s that sense of American Entitlement that gives folks “permission” to do what the hell they want at intersections with a roundabout.

As an almost Civil Engineer, I can tell you that roundabouts are safer for pedestrians and cyclists, safer for motorists (when the roundabout is used properly), safer for homes and businesses around a roundabout and better for the environment. Roundabouts keep traffic moving slowly. That’s what they’re designed to do: slow you down and allow you to navigate the intersection without having to stop (unless there’s a pedestrian crossing or conflicting traffic).

They’re brilliant!

So let’s review how a roundabout works:

1. In the United States, roundabout traffic travels counterclockwise. So, if you want to turn left at the intersection, you go around 270 degrees and exit right to make your left hand turn.

2. Traffic inside the roundabout always has the right of way. There’s no “hierarchy” of streets. No vehicle is more important than another. It doesn’t matter how much you paid for your vehicle, how big your vehicle is or how big your balls are, if you are entering the roundabout, you yield to traffic already in the roundabout (approaching from your left). Bicycles are included as a vehicle.

3. Bicycles should not be using the crosswalks or the sidewalks at a roundabout. Bicycles should travel just like any other vehicle in a roundabout. Since roundabout design speeds are around 15 MPH, a bicycle should be able to flow just like other traffic in the roundabout. And here’s a quick pro tip: bicycles should never be using sidewalks or crosswalks to begin with. Bicycles are vehicles and should be on the same side of the road as other vehicles and cyclists should be using hand signals to indicate their intentions.

4. When you are exiting a roundabout, use your turn signal to indicate that you’re turning out of the roundabout. This let’s those yielding to you know what you are doing.

5. Roundabouts are not the same as the big traffic circles and rotaries built in the 50s and 60s. They were designed for higher speed traffic. Today’s modern roundabouts are well marked and designed for speed limits around 15 MPH. You shouldn’t whip around one as quickly as possible.

Roundabouts are not hard to navigate if you have common sense. Unfortunately, common sense is a rarity these days and some motorists can’t think on their own. Bring along your common sense and everything will be fine.

Spirit.

  
I’m sitting here in the park along the canal near the house. It is 60ºF, the sun is shining beautifully. Aside from the limited amount of sunlight this year, today could easily be mistaken for any given day in March in this area, just with a little bit less amount of mud from snow melt.

This doesn’t really get one in the holiday spirit.

The forecasters have been saying for months that we would have a mild winter this year due to the largest El Niño in known history. So far they have been correct. A quick look at the next 10 days has more of the same temperatures and weather during that time.

If the clouds cooperate I plan on going for a night flight tonight.

I spent the first half of the week working Greenville, S.C., and it struck me that not everyone is dependent on snow to get into the holiday spirit. It’s never really dawned on me that snowflakes and over the hills and through the woods and all that is a northern thing. Jingle Bells must sound ridiculous in the desert.

It gives me a whole new perspective on the holiday season. New perspectives at my age are good.